How to write your definition of privacy (and why you should do it now)
Our digital lives no longer exist in a narrow, singular space. Going online — whether to research, shop, explore, interact, or be entertained — has become an integral part of everyday life. Technology gives us the opportunity to learn, grow, and express ourselves more fully, but it often comes with a cost to our privacy, as well as the way the public perceives privacy definitions as a whole.
According to a 2018 data privacy survey from Acxiom, most U.S. consumers (82%) are highly concerned about the issue of online privacy — and for good reason. Data collection is becoming increasingly more common. Most websites and online advertisers track our digital behavior, recording every click, keystroke, and page visited to gather information on our preferences, location, and habits. They then use this data to create a digital persona and send us targeted ads.
As a result, much of what we see online is tailored or designed to generate a profit. Of course, this isn’t inherently bad. Some consumers want and appreciate a curated digital experience, but the fact is that many companies collect our information without our knowledge or consent.
As more and more web giants demand access to personal details like your birthday, email address, or location, sharing has become the new norm. This, in turn, has dramatically changed the definition of privacy. Privacy is no longer something you’re entitled to — you’re forced to surrender it as soon as you go online.
Even if you willingly give up your personal details, it’s difficult to trust that the companies demanding your data are managing it responsibly. Research shows that data breaches are on the rise. According to the 2019 Thales Data Threat Report, 65% of U.S. respondents have experienced a data breach at some point. Of those same respondents, 36% experienced a breach in 2018, compared to just 26% in 2017.
That’s why it’s time to reimagine your definition of privacy
The more privacy we lose, the less autonomy we have over our online experiences. This creates an imbalance of power between companies and consumers. The Acxiom survey found that 77% of consumers, for example, believe businesses benefit significantly more than individuals from data exchanges between brands and consumers.
Here’s the good news, though: You don’t have to resign yourself to an online life with less privacy. You have the power to rethink your definition of privacy. You can create a privacy definition that breaks the current mold — one that doesn’t just align with your values and goals, but also helps you feel freer to create the life you want. And isn’t that what the internet is all about?
Here are four new ways to define privacy:
Privacy is personal
Privacy is a right
Privacy is flexible
Privacy paves the way to freedom
Consider how these four perspectives can help you rethink your definition of privacy.
1. Privacy is personal
The larger definition of privacy has taken on a blurry shape. Some people define privacy as protection over their personal details, while others see it as a state of total freedom from observation. The vast majority of companies and websites, on the other hand, view privacy as inevitable collateral damage in the age of data tracking.
What’s clear is that privacy isn’t universal — it’s personal. How you define privacy is up to you, and that definition is subject to change as your needs and goals shift.
Depending on the day, you may want to be seen and heard online, or you might crave time and space to express yourself without anyone watching. After all, in your offline life, you have total control over what you share, when you share it, and with whom. And your digital life should be no different. What you choose to put out in the world is deeply personal. That’s why you should be free to define privacy in whatever way it makes sense for you.
2. Privacy is a right
Many websites refer to privacy like it’s a special perk of using their site. But online privacy shouldn’t be something extra to get excited about. We define privacy not as a bonus, a gift, a luxury, or even a privilege — it’s a right. In your digital life, you should be entitled to as much or as little privacy as you want, whenever you want it.
Of course, in a time of expected, often automatic information exchange, guaranteed privacy may seem like a radical notion, but it’s not. According to a 2018 survey from Arm Treasure Data, 52% of consumers think there should be no reason for companies to track their personal data.
We think the average privacy definition should protect you more. You shouldn’t have to fight to control your own information or choose how visible you’d like to be online. Privacy should be given without condition or exception.
3. Privacy should be flexible
As humans, we’re built to adapt to the world around us. We observe changes, gather ideas, gain new perspectives, and adjust accordingly. The faster the world shifts, though, the more flexibility we need to adapt to it. It just so happens that the digital world, in particular, tends to change at lightning speed, which is why we believe in a definition of privacy that prizes flexibility.
Depending on the particular website you visit, the work you’re doing, or your mood that day, you might want to remain completely anonymous — or you may choose to be visible if you want to receive updates, coupons, or suggested ads.
The point is that you don’t have to define privacy as something set in stone. You should be able to easily control and adjust your level of privacy no matter where or when you go online.
4. Privacy paves the way to freedom
The common definition of privacy suggests it’s one-dimensional: you either have it or you don’t. It’s either on or off. But our definition of privacy is more fluid. At FigLeaf, we believe your online privacy should be completely up to you.
Because when privacy is a choice, humanity is free. Free to be known — or not. Free to express yourself without a third party automatically profiting from your interests and ideas. Free to think, create, connect, and explore on your terms. Free to enjoy your online experience in full.
That’s the privacy definition of the future — and you can be part of it.